Norwich City have quality in squad to scare Championship rivals
PUBLISHED: 15:32 17 September 2014 | UPDATED: 15:33 17 September 2014
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As comebacks go, what Norwich City achieved in Cardiff on Saturday was something special.
They were so far off the pace in that first half that Roy Race might have complained to his cartoonist creators if Melchester Rovers had ever won 4-2 from that position for coming up with a storyline that was ‘a bit far fetched’.
Yet Norwich City pulled it off with a swashbuckling second half display. The red dragon on the Wales flags at either end of the ground didn’t look anywhere near as intimidating as the Canaries extinguished their fire. The Cardiff hierarchy were so shell-shocked by the way the lead had been so comprehensively torn from their grip that by the time Neil Adams emerged for his post-match interviews, the main scoreboard in the ground had already been switched to show Cardiff City 0 Middlesbrough 0 in preparation for Tuesday’s game at the same ground. They couldn’t wait to sweep Saturday’s second half under the carpet.
While John Ruddy, Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond deservedly picked up most of the plaudits it was a win made all the more notable by looking at the list of who wasn’t playing. Ignasi Miquel, Carlos Cuellar and Elliott Bennett, three players who would get into most Championship starting line-ups comfortably, didn’t make the bench. Highly-rated new signing Vadis Odjidja was an unused sub while Jonny Howson, Gary Hooper and Ryan Bennett are all still to come back from injury.
Having spent most of the summer sweating profusely about which players may leave Carrow Road, Norwich have suddenly assembled a squad which looks capable of staring the 46 game slugfest of The Championship square in the eyes and saying “come on then”. There’s a long way to go but City fans cannot be blamed for feeling a bit of excitement about what the next seven or eight months might hold.
So comprehensive was Saturday’s comeback that Norwich even managed to find a way to prove how little I know about all this. Having spent the last two weeks on this page complaining about City’s keenness to experiment with short corners, I had to commentate on them scoring from one. So much for my ‘get it in the mixer’ mantra. At 2-2 with 20 minutes to go, Nathan Redmond tapped a set-piece to Wes Hoolahan. Some intricate build-up play involving Russell Martin and Alex Tettey ended with Michael Turner bundling home the goal that gave Norwich the lead for the first time. There was a surprisingly muted celebration at first which made me momentarily wonder if the goal had been disallowed.
Perhaps it was shock from Turner that for once his long old plod up to the opposition penalty area had been worth it but it would be churlish to go on about that again so I’ll hang my tracksuit up once and for all and leave the corner routines to the pros.
That’s not to say that tippy-tappy football is the way forward. Cardiff’s first half dominance on Saturday was partly down to the form of their striker Kenwyne Jones. Norwich struggled to cope with his pace and power.
The introduction of Cameron Jerome at half-time had the same effect on the Canaries. As much as flowing, passing football is pleasing on the eye, teams have to earn the right to play that way and it was in the second half that Norwich really rolled their sleeves up and started snapping into the challenges. Fans love that.
Hardened old retired professionals never tire of pointing out the work rate of some of football’s most successful clubs to keen idiots like me who can sometimes get dazzled when ten passes are strung together.
• IT’S SO TIRING WATCHING THE HIGHLIGHTS
I am yet to make it through a complete episode of The Football League Show since Norwich City’s return to The Championship.
I’ve tried but it’s just on too late and the presence of Steve Claridge as a pundit doesn’t help. I like him a lot but he doesn’t half look tired. I’m almost expecting him to be sat in his pyjamas after the League One goals round-up and then perhaps be halfway through cleaning his teeth when the cameras return to the studio after all the action from League Two.
Claridge has the appearance of a man who is trying to drop bed time hints to a group of friends who have outstayed their welcome round his house.
I also have a suspicion they might have started dropping little things into the Football League Show to test whether the audience is awake. For example as they showed Ipswich Town and Millwall running out at Portman Road on Saturday I could have sworn I saw a mascot dressed as Pacman standing by the tunnel.
Usually these furry animal costumes are fairly self-explanatory. See Captain Canary as a route one example of how to keep young supporters entertained with a character clearly in line with the brand of the club. But Pacman at Portman Road? I don’t get it. Unless it’s a satirical comment about being very big in the 1980s.
They must have quite a good store cupboard at Ipswich Town. When the unfortunate Ryan Bennett was stricken by an ankle injury in the East Anglian Derby last month they sent for the stretcher. Instead of four trained first aiders huffing and puffing onto the pitch with one handle of the stretcher each, Town had a vehicle that was a cross between a golf buggy and a milk float that they loaded Bennett on to and drove him off the field.
Football League Show presenter Manish Bhasin could do with borrowing that to help a snoring Steve Claridge out of the studio in the early hours of a Sunday morning.